Capabilities: Helping Ohioans with Disabilities using Google Cloud
Connecting the dots
In 1997 Ohioans with disabilities were counseled through the education system with the ultimate goal of graduating high school. Beyond that, their future employment options and supporting programs were limited. Capabilities LLC was founded to connect the dots between such a person and their future, offering services in community employment, community inclusion, driving services, exploration services, professional training, and technology services.
Now 20 years & 8 locations later, Capabilities LLC is the largest provider of employment services for people with physical, intellectual, mental health, or sensory disabilities in the state of Ohio. As such, 85% of their business is state sourced. For Capabilities, that means processing thousands of participant authorizations PDFs submitted by the state each month. Previously, once a PDF was received, a 3rd party case management software would be used to parse out and store the participant data from the PDF forms. From there, an extensive web of excel spreadsheets would be created to manage the day to day deliverables of actual case management.
“Prior to moving to the Google Cloud, our case management process was an IT nightmare to manage,” stated Capabilities IT Manager Timothy Smith. Due to limitations in the case management software’s form field and reporting functionality, it was severely underutilized by staff. Reporting on the status of participants and parsing the PDF form fields to the software’s database was an ongoing challenge for the firm. Reporting requirements defined by the state are subject to frequent and unexpected adjustments and similarly, the form fields on the state’s participant PDFs also fluctuate without warning. The case management software was unable to support real-time updates and the hardcoded reporting criteria left Capabilities preparing reports manually in Excel.
To support the gap in technology, Capabilities employed a dedicated IT resource just to assist employees in using the thousands of excel sheets used to manage clients and deliver reports. “This reliance upon spreadsheets is not only extremely difficult for employees,” states Smith, “it also introduces data integrity issues as well as data security concerns, as sensitive data stored in the sheets could be unintentionally shared through the case management process.” Smith and his team knew they needed a more efficient and scalable way to manage & deliver the business’s core process.
Creating Efficient Processes With Google Cloud
Two years ago Capabilities was faced with the end of life of their email infrastructure. At that time, Smith and his team investigated replacing costly on-premise hardware and compared that to a number of Cloud-based alternatives. Smith discovered that moving to Google Workspace would save the company $45,000 - $50,000 in hardware and support costs and would provide staff with an easy way to create and collaborate via Google Drive. He also saw the potential impact on Capabilities’ case management process that Google Cloud Platform services could provide. They made the switch to Google Cloud.
To help leverage the services available on Google Cloud Platform, Capabilities partnered with Suitebriar, a Google Cloud Premier Partner. After analyzing Capabilities needs, Suitebriar developed a number of prototyped solutions to confirm feasibility and ultimately delivered a custom solution that gives Capabilities the flexibility they need to make real-time updates to form fields, reporting criteria and case management deliverables. “From the very beginning, Suitebriar really made this as painless as this type of project can be,” shared Smith. “I can’t imagine having to do this with a competing Cloud provider with our time frame and budget. It just wouldn’t have been an option.”
By using Google Cloud Storage (GCS) to store PDFs, a custom application running on Google Compute Engine to process the files automatically and Cloud Vision API to OCR the PDF and extract their text -- Capabilities can now swiftly process PDF documentation and store form information in a MySQL database for daily case management and future reporting. “With Google Cloud Platform & Suitebriar we were able to create an affordable custom Cloud solution that we can use to significantly improve the efficiency of our core product,” states Smith.
From the very beginning, Suitebriar really made this as painless as this type of project can be. I can’t imagine having to do this with a competing Cloud provider with our time frame and budget. It just wouldn’t have been an option."
Timothy Smith | IT MANAGER
Enhancing quality of life with more employment placements
Over the next year, Smith’s team, with the help of Suitebriar, will develop a fully customized front-end database. By establishing a MySQL database, Capabilities will have the flexibility it needs to adjust reporting and OCR requirements to meet those supplied by the state of Ohio. This is a huge relief for Smith. “Developing our own database optimized for our business’s goals will allow our team to provide improved customer care and potentially expand caseloads and our business”. Smith expects the process improvements to amount to a 50% increase in productivity from caseworkers.
These improvements also help Capabilities align with a federal mandate that eliminates disability workshops by 2025. Historically individuals with certain disabilities would be placed in “workshops” with others with disabilities. Capabilities’ goal is to connect those individuals with the community they live in by placing them in community employment roles.
“In an industry where printing and faxing completed forms is still the norm, we at Capabilities want to set the precedent that technology doesn’t have to be cumbersome. It can and will help facilitate supporting the community and because of this move, we’re well positioned for the future.”